By David A. Brown
1. Tournament winner Austin Wilson caught his fish on a 4-inch Keitech Easy Shiner in the silver flash minnow color. He fished his bait on a 2/0 Gamakatsu finesse EWG hook with a treble stinger. Adding half a nail weigh in the belly gave the bait an enticing action.
He also caught a keeper on an Alabama rig with 3-inch Keitech Easy Shiners (smallmouth magic color) on the teasers, 3.5-inch Keitech Easy Shiners (electric shad) on the side hooks and a 4-inch Keitech Easy Shiner (electric shad), in the target position.
Difference Maker: Wilson trusted the strength and performance of his Dobyns 794 rod and 17-pound P-Line Tactical fluorocarbon for his A-rig and a Dobyns 743 Champion Extreme with 10-pound P-Line braided main line and a 10-pound P-Line Tactical fluorocarbon leader for the Easy Shiner presentation.
Difference Maker: Retrofitting his crankbait with super sharp size 4 Trokar trebles ensured Salvucci hooked fish that were lazily swatting at his bait.
3. After leading the Overall Weight standings for two days, Nick Wood had to adjust for the Day-3 weather. He caught his third-place bag on a Ned rig comprising a 3/16-ounce Z-Man Finesse ShroomZ and a green pumpkin 2.75-inch Z-man Finesse TRD.
Difference Maker: Slinging an A-rig all day is no easy task, but Huckaby found his 7-7 heavy Phenix Feather Series rod provided the strength he needed for long casts and effective presentations.
5. John Pearl took fifth place after catching his fish on a Megabass Vision 110 in a custom color (light hitch), a Megabass Vision 110+1 in sexy French pearl and a Lucky Craft Pointer 112 in chartreuse shad.
Difference Maker: Fighting fish on treble hooks can be the recipe for heartache, but Pearl found the parabolic action of his Douglas DXC 766 rod provided the right balance of strength and flexibility.
6. Ken Mah turned in a sixth-place finish by catching fish on a Lucky Craft Pointer 78XD in ghost minnow, a Spro Rock Crawler in phantom craw and a Big Bite Tour Swimmer in a shad color on a 3/8-ounce football head.
Difference Maker: Noting that his Sunline fluorocarbon provided consistent strength and durability, Mah stressed the importance of maintaining a strategic mindset. His areas were getting a lot of attention, so he just stuck it out and looked for presentations that no one else was making.
7. Paul Hodges committed his day to bed fishing in 2-3 feet of water. Working a flat near the dam, he caught all of his fish on a Pro Swimbaits Bluegill Paddle Tail rigged on a 3/16-ounce ball head jig.
Difference Maker: Effective hook sets were key and Hodges said his setup performed flawlessly. He used a 7-2 MF Taipan rod and a Daiwa Steez spinning reel with 18-pound Daiwa Samaurai braid and 8-pound Yamamoto Suguoi fluorocarbon leader.
8. For two days, P.J. Bruggeman caught his fish on a Megabass Vision 110+1 and Megabass Vision 110+2 in bone and wakasagi and a Lucky Craft Pointer 112 Slender in chartreuse shad. With Day 3’s tough conditions, Bruggeman had to pick up a spinning rod and catch his fish on a Ned rig with a 5/16-ounce Z-Man ShroomZ and a 4-inch Big TRD.
Difference Maker: The first two days, an 8:1 Shimano Metanium reel with 10 and 12-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon allowed Bruggeman to make long casts into the wind. On Day 3, 4-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon provided the strength and stealth needed to boat his fish.
Difference Maker: Focused on feeling the finer gravel, Pearson found his Shimano Metanium reel, iRod 703 and 12-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon allowed the smooth retrieve he needed to grind the baits through the rough bottom.
10. Following up on a hot Day-2 jerkbait bite, Jared Lintner caught his final-round fish on a white Jackall 110 MR. Using his Garmin Echomap 126 mapping, he targeted sand/gravel bank leading into pockets.